PSX 2016 – Nidhogg 2 Preview – Gross Fun
I thought I knew what I was getting into when I booked an appointment to see Nidhogg 2, but the follow-up to Mark Essen’s stellar multiplayer fencing game offered a lot of surprises. I came in expecting more of the skill-based gameplay that the original game had perfected, but instead the sequel offers chaotic fun. This is due to a few small changes that end up having a huge impact.
On a base level, the sequel features the same exact core gameplay loop that impressed me when it released in 2014. Two players still face off in hand-to-hand combat, with the goal being to get to the edge of the screen. Players can only progress when they’ve made the most recent kill, and matches are a back-and-forth tussle to see who gets the honor of being eaten by the Níðhǫggr.
The biggest change from a pure gameplay perspective is that new weapons have been added into the mix. No longer will players strictly face off strictly with swords (or spinal cords), as there are now more ways to murder your opponent. The build I played featured a bow and arrow, a standard sword, a knife, and a long sword that would send my opponent’s weapon into the air if blocked. Most of these weapons need to be used at different ranges, and they really change the dynamic of combat.
Since the weapons all feel distinctly different, players can be put into some major disadvantages in Nidhogg 2. This is due to the game randomly giving players a different weapon each time they spawn, so it’s not like players are picking a loadout or having to use the same weaponry as their opponent. Someone with a long sword will have quite a reach advantage against a knife player, and that’s adds to the sequel’s chaotic nature.
This sense of randomness seemingly betrays everything that the original Nidhogg was about. The first game focused on uniformity, all players being on an even playing field at all times, and allowing skill to always prevail. It’s what made that game so compelling, and why a lot of players will be thrown off by the sequel. That’s not to say that those who enjoyed the first game will hate this, but if they do enjoy it, it’ll likely be for different reasons.
Since Nidhogg 2’s gameplay is all about chaos, it’s quite fitting that the game features a drastically different art style. Gone is the minimalistic spritework that gave Intellivision flashbacks, having been replaced with some monstrous artwork by Toby Dixon. The sequel is ugly, but in the best of ways. Every character looks gross, every environment looks like the worst place to vacation, and the entire aesthetic can be best described as disgusting. That said, it totally fits the vibe of the game, and I can’t imagine it having a different look.
Developer Messhof is going in a bold new direction with Nidhogg 2, and it looks to be a great party game. It’s been designed with netplay in mind, so it shouldn’t suffer from sub-par online play like the original. It’s also more accessible than ever, so it’ll be easy to get friends involved in the action. There’s still a lot of skill involved, and players who were good at the original will likely find success here, but the random elements add a unique, new flavor to the experience.
Nidhogg 2 might not be the sequel that fans of the original expected, but that definitely isn’t a bad thing.